China-US climate deal hailed as ‘historic’

November 24, 2014

A climate change agreement negotiated in secret and unveiled last month by the presidents of China and the US commits the two countries to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) output. China has agreed to cap its emissions for the first time and the US committed to deep reductions by 2025.

The deal, which was hailed as ‘historic’ by environmental organisations including Greenpeace and the US National Resources Defense Council, commits the US to cut its emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. China, the world’s biggest emitter of GHGs, has pledged to cap its output by 2030 or earlier if possible.
Ahead of next year’s Paris climate summit, the EU had already agreed a binding 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said the US-China agreement ‘makes it more likely we shall have a meaningful global agreement on climate by the end of 2015’.
However, Friends of the Earth warned that the measures, even if fully enacted, would be insufficient to prevent global warming.
The agreement was announced by US president Barack Obama (pictured) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping just days before the world’s 20 leading industrial economies committed themselves to ‘strong and effective action to address climate change’. The commitment came at November’s G20 summit in Brisbane, and is significant as much for being part of the G20 communiqué as for anything it might mean in specific terms.
In the run-up to the summit, the host president, Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott, signalled that climate change would not be on the agenda because the summit’s primary aim was to tackle economic issues and climate change was not an economic issue. Abbott has also questioned the science behind climate change.
But following the announcement in Beijing, the US and EU made sure that climate change was both on the G20 agenda and made it into the final statement of intent. The US president also announced a $3 billion US contribution to the UN Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer nations develop the technology to reduce harmful emissions.
The reference to climate change in the three-page end-of-summit communiqué is not prominent, but it has a paragraph to itself, and an EU official was quoted as saying it contains most of the references that were important to the EU.
It says the 20 nations will ‘support sustainable development, economic growth and certainty for business and investment’ consistent with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It goes on: ‘We will work together to adopt successfully a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC that is applicable to all parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in 2015.’ And it asks all countries to signal what they are willing to commit to in Paris as soon as possible.

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